NEW DELHI: As China woos the world with COVID-related assistance, India is also looking to spread its medicine diplomacy net far and wide. While many countries like the US have purchased the antimalarial drug — hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) — from India, the government has so far also provided it as grant assistance to 24 countries.

It is now looking to reach out to 52 more countries spread mainly across Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and Africa with similar grants. China has stepped up assistance to both Latin America and Africa in the past few months, even as international media remains focused more on Beijing’s medical aid to the West.

India will donate COVID-related items to 90 countries in the next few weeks. 76 countries will also receive donations of HCQ tablets

Official sources said India had earmarked 5 million HCQ tablets for 28 LAC countries and 100,000 each for 19 African countries. Including other forms of medical assistance, India will supply COVID-related stuff purely as a grant to more than 90 countries in the next few weeks. Seventy-six countries in all will receive HCQ tablets as grant assistance from India.

On both commercial and grant basis, India has supplied medicines to 133 countries (446 million HCQ tablets and 1.54 billion Paracetamol tablets), foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said in an address to National Defence College Friday.

Among the 24 who have already received HCQ as a donation from India are neighbours like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Maldives.

Out of the 5 million tablets approved for LAC countries, Peru will get 900,000 and Venezuela 740,000. India will also send 500,000 tablets to Guatemala, 400,000 to Ecuador and 300,000 each to Cuba, Bolivia and Haiti. In Africa, India will donate HCQ to Guinea Bissau, Cabo Verde, Nigeria, Liberia, Benin, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Malawi, Namibia, Kenya, Chad, Sierra Leone, Republic of Congo, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Guinea, Gambia and Equatorial Guinea.

“We have already donated close to 3 million HCQ tablets to 24 countries. Nearly 7 million more will be donated to LAC countries and Africa. There is also a proposal to supply these tablets to Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Malta and Moldova,” said an official source.

In the past month or so, China has ramped up assistance to both Latin America and Africa where countries are faced with acute shortage of equipment like ventilators, surgical masks and testing kits. The COVID pandemic though has also provided India an opportunity to reach out to countries across the globe with a spurt in demand for drugs manufactured in India like HCQ and paracetamol.

As the foreign secretary said Thursday, India’s role as a pharmacy of the world had come into focus during this crisis. “In a coordinated response involving several branches of government and multiple private sector pharma companies, India was able to supply, after ensuring adequate domestic stockpiles, large volumes of these drugs to friends and consumers across the world. It is also making its medical and public health expertise and capacity available to the entire South Asian region,” he said.

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Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) donated by India to 24 countries to combat Covid-19 as at May 15:

 CountryQuantity (Tablets)  
5Burkina Faso100,000
6Democratic Republic of Congo100,000
7Dominican Republic200,000
[Source: TOI]

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